TPA spin-off pretends speed cameras cause accidents

4:02 pm - January 24th 2011

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contribution by Tim Fenton

There are no areas of the economy off limits to the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), and such is their zeal that they have another spin-off, the Drivers’ Alliance (DA), to help spread their particular brand of propaganda on matters relating to road transport and travel.

They have published a so-called “research note” titled “Speeding Fines” [.pdf], with such glaring leaps of logic that they would shame any serious researcher.

Look at all the tables [p4-8] showing amounts of fines collected: at first glance – and the TPA clearly hope that this is the only glance their efforts will attract – it looks as if all those local authorities are making a lot of money out of the unfortunate motorist.

Then ask how much the fines actually cost to collect: this is not told. So any talk of profiteering is worthless.

It gets worse when the “research note” looks at the effectiveness of speed cameras. Here, two basic mistakes are made, but dressed up with lots of very serious looking numbers to throw lazy journalists off the scent.

The DA are trying to suggest that speed cameras have not reduced casualty accidents, but somehow increased them (other potential factors are conveniently ignored). In support of this, a graph has been produced showing a “predicted casualty rate”.

But following the trajectory of this rate would see an end to all casualty accidents in the next two years! This, I can guarantee, will not happen.

It gets worse: a regression analysis (and a Chow Test) are then featured [p12-16], which is meant to impress the average hack. The analysis uses the point where speed cameras were introduced, in 1991, to show how the casualty rate decline has reduced.

But, again, this is pure tosh: the analysis only works if all speed cameras were installed at the same time – it’s a straight fit. Many cameras didn’t appear until after the 2000 “Tomorrow’s Roads – Safer For Everyone” white paper [pdf].

Shocking isn’t it, that the sister organisation to the TaxPayers Alliance would try and misrepresent data so wilfully?

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Can you disprove the following conclusion from the report then?

The Chow Test shows that the two time periods are different and the slower rate of decline in road casualties from 1991 onwards shows that road safety policy has not been fulfilling its objective.

Because since the Driver’s Alliance have at least done some figures, it might be better to disprove them, and criticising 1991 only makes sense if you remember that any such (relatively simple) analysis needs to start somewhere, and considering what the question being asked here was 1991 was sensible enough. Not saying the Driver’s Alliance is correct (I have my normal caveats about anything from Taxpayer’s Alliance, although this at least has the calculations where you can see them) but I am pretty certain that the best way to disprove them is to show that 1991 is not a signficant break (ideally shouldn’t they have checked other dates as well – maybe the best way to go).

Before anyone makes the point:

1 This is an edited version of the original ( although it covers the ground pretty well

2 Yes, the TPA/DA “research note” is not a new one, but this was the first of two posts on the DA that I was working on – it’s a lead in to my having a look at the “report” on supposedly excessive taxes on motoring, which has been produced in the past fortnight.

Chris Lightfoot wrote something about this several years ago:

@1, the successful completion of a Chow Test means that a Chow Test has been successfully completed.

And no more.


I agree – hence my question on whether you had looked at other years (my inkling is that you would get at least equal significance from a Chow Test on other years).

Incidentally, there is of course the question of whether speed cameras may have worked but having changed behaviour are now less necessary, which seems to be beyond the Drivers’ Alliance (its a difficult concept…) and probably not necessary for Tim to address in a response piece.

Yes I suppose we should all be driving state produced 800cc Ladas with solar panels and wind turbines and if we dont we can pay £8000 gazillion a year road tax for the privelige of paying £15 a litre for petrol.

That sounds like fun.

Or maybe we can retrofit our cars with a visa debit system whereby every time you go over 71 MPH the government get to steal money from your bank account. Sounds like something they would do.

Or how about the government stay the hell out of our lives and let us drive whatever car we want wherever we want without robbing us blind for the privilege.

I thought the right was for the rule of law? If you can’t pay the fine ,don’t break the law. Simple.

The trouble with the middle class is that speeding, like white collar crime, is not seen as a crime.

The declining trend of pedestrian road casualties over the last four decades has been truly impressive:

Young drivers are disproportionately represented among fatal road casualties:

Young drivers account for more than two in five road deaths, according to new research by safety campaign organisation Brake.

Brake says that 1297 of the 3201 deaths in 2005 involved a motorist or rider aged between 15 and 25, according to figures supplied to it by the Department for Transport and the Northern Ireland Police Service, despite the fact they account for just one in eight licenses.

Road crashes remain the leading cause of death for people aged between 15 and 24.

I suppose the most evident social benefit of reducing or getting rid of speed cameras is that would probably speed up the Darwinian process of improving the national gene-pool.

“But following the trajectory of this rate would see an end to all casualty accidents in the next two years! ”

And thereafter presumably drivers made safer by the sheer power of the free market are raised from the dead as the line crosses the zero axis.

These people really are quite special.


Speed cameras haven’t significantly reduced road fatalities. In many locations they’ve actually increased the number of accidents. Most Police forces carry data for each camera site. Already some are being removed after being shown to be ineffective.

What *has* reduced the number of fatalities is EuroNCAP. Simply put, cars are much safer now than in 1991. Cars are better built with respect to crash tests, brakes and tyres are far better, electronic driver aids are better and much more prevalent, airbags are standard in most cars and the air gap over the engine (which reduces the damage cause to pedestrians in an impact as it allows the bonnet to absorb some of the energy by flexing).

I’m guessing the above has had much more of an impact than putting up a few easily avoidable speed cameras in the number of road deaths.

Not that the pro-speed camera types will ever admit it.


Tyler, you’re missing the point (and not for the first time).

The post highlights the TPA’s selective use of figures to reinforce a conclusion they have already made (the idea that local authorities are profiteering from fines), then shows the fraudulent use of supposedly highbrow mathematical analysis, as well as the implicit assumption that casualty accidents will somehow cease by 2013 – if only speed cameras were taken away.

Your assertion that speed cameras have not significantly reduced road fatalities, as with much from the right, is backed by no cite, and will not be – it’s just hot air.



And as I say, these figures themselves do not account for the massive improvement in the safety features of cars, which undoubtably reduce KSI statistics, but are incredibly difficult to measure.

As such, you are also warping the statistical evidence in suggesting that the whole reason for a decline in KSIs is speed cameras, when better cars, signage and road layouts could easily have more of an effect.

(annecdotally a place near me was a massive accident blackspot. They changed the road layout and installed a speed camera. Accidents dropped, but were never caused by speed in the first place – they were caused by poor visibilty at the intersection. it’s not the speed camera making the difference, but the statistics are recorded as such. likewise it’s suspicious how many cameras are located on safe roads which generate large revenues).

Thats before we go into the ridiculous argument that speed is the main cause of accidents – even govt statistics suggest it was a “factor” in less than a third (hard to have accidents in a stationary car) and excessive speed a cause of less still. Speed cameras have been used as an excuse to cut down numbers of Traffic Police, when they can clearly only deal with one facet of driver safety. Cameras don’t catch the uninsured or unsafe cars, drunk or drug drivers or simlply dangerous ones.

But Tim, please feel free to be all for speed cameras. It won’t stop me or anyone else going through them at the speed limit then accelerating right back up again.

How would you know? since you lkive in South Africa. Keep your nose out of our bussiness thank you.

“peed cameras have been used as an excuse to cut down numbers of Traffic Police, when they can clearly only deal with one facet of driver safety.”

Yes, I think this is the main issue really. Speed is one factor among many others in bad driving. Cameras can record speeding, and jumping red lights, but they can’t do anything about tailgating, swerving between lanes, driving without insurance (yet…) etc. I’d wager that the vast majority of accidents that are down to bad driving involve drivers with a history of many of the above, because they are rarely enforced.

But this isn’t an argument against speed cameras, just that tackling bad driving isn’t about putting all your eggs in one basket.

@13 Sally

I might live in South Africa but that British passport I have, being born and living most of my life in the UK means it is my business as much as yours.

That all said, at least South Africa is a real country – the one you seem to inhabit is some kind of socialist dreamland utopia concocted entirely in your head.

@14 PS

Entirely. Speed cameras are often touted as a solutio for all driving reltated ills, when in reality they focus on one point to the detraction of everything else.

A few observations, without taking sides in the debate.

Many drivers slow down by braking suddenly when approaching a speed camera when actually driving at the prescribed speed, causing following vehicles to follow suit, therefore raising the chance of accidents. I’ve experienced this many times.

Quite a few cameras have been installed along roads where the speed limit has been reduced, or where the width or open location of the road give an impression of driving slower than one actually is. Is this a deliberate policy?

On other measures, anti-speed bumps in the road lead to more wear-and-tear on vehicles, low-gear driving leading to higher petrol consumption, and drivers here too often slow down suddenly to well below the limit when approaching them, thus raising the possibility of an accident. Incidentally, buses are far more affected than motors by many bumps, and by tightened junctions and chicanes, therefore public transport is slowed more than private transport.

Safer driving is necessary, but I find that the measures brought in, whilst reducing speed to some extent, also lead to less comfortable and more disrupted driving, and one thing I have learnt in nearly 40 years of driving is that the smoother the ride the less stressful it is, and I can pay more attention to other road users, vehicular and pedestrian alike.

Speed is not the only problem. Drivers who drive within the limit but who do all manner of daft or inconsiderate things, the large number of cyclists who refuse to obey traffic regulations, dozy pedestrians who don’t look before crossing the road: I find all these more problematic than the odd bloke who drives fast. I can let him pass me, the others are around all the time.

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